What are World Englishes?
World Englishes is a term referring to localized or indigenized varieties of English spoken throughout the world by people of diverse cultural backgrounds in a wide range of sociolinguistic contexts.
World Englishes and the OED
With the rise of English as the world’s lingua franca, it has become even more essential for dictionaries to recognize and document words and phrases that reflect the identities and experiences of a multi-ethnic and multicultural Anglophone population. These pages serve as a hub for the content and resources related to World Englishes on the OED site, and provide information on the contributions made by the dictionary’s extensive network of consultants and partner institutions across the globe. There is also the opportunity to suggest a World English term for inclusion in the OED.
Editors of the current edition of the OED now have access to a wealth of evidence for varieties other than standard varieties of English. The Internet enables us to instantly consult databases, newspapers, journals, and books from across the globe, as well as a number of World English dictionaries and grammars. We are also aided by contributions from members of the public, and specialist advice from an international network of consultants. Various forms of social media have also given us a view into current, informal, idiosyncratic uses of words from many different places, and even allow us to reach out to people who speak regional Englishes to ask them about the words that they use.
Read this OED blog post to learn more about the history of the OED’s coverage of world varieties of English from the 1884 first fascicle to the current edition, and for more information on the dictionary’s current policies and procedures with regard to variation in English.
The OED has always included words from across the English-speaking world. What’s changed – drastically – since the first edition is the size and breadth of the English-speaking population. The British Council estimates 1.75 billion people worldwide can speak English to what it calls ‘some useful degree’.
For the past few years we have been undertaking a series of projects to improve our coverage of words and senses from those parts of the world in which English is used most prolifically and distinctively. In each of these projects we have formed partnerships with external experts from or in the region. Increasingly, terms arising in these varieties will spread internationally.Michael Proffitt, Chief Editor of the OED
World Englishes recorded in the OED
We will be adding more resources pages for each variety of English in the coming months. Where a ‘VIEW RESOURCES’ link appears, click to view a list of free-to-view words and resources relevant to your variety of English.
|Variety of English||Pronunciation||Resources|
|African American English||COMING SOON|
|Australian English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Bahamian English||COMING SOON|
|Barbadian English||COMING SOON|
|Bermudian English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Canadian English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Caribbean English||includes Bahamian English, Barbadian English, Guyanese English, Jamaican English, Trinidadian English, and varieties spoken in other Caribbean islands||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|East African English||includes Kenyan English, Tanzanian English, and Ugandan English||model | key||COMING SOON|
|Ghanaian English||COMING SOON|
|Guyanese English||COMING SOON|
|Hong Kong English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Indian English||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Irish English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Jamaican English||COMING SOON|
|Kenyan English||COMING SOON|
|Malaysian English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Manx English||model | key||COMING SOON|
|New Zealand English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Nigerian English||COMING SOON|
|North American English||includes Canadian English and US English||COMING SOON|
|Philippine English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Scottish English||model | key||COMING SOON|
|Singapore English||model | key||COMING SOON|
|South African English||model | key||VIEW RESOURCES|
|South Asian English||includes Bangladeshi English, Indian English, Pakistani English, and Sri Lankan English||COMING SOON|
|Southeast Asian English||COMING SOON|
|Tanzanian English||COMING SOON|
|Trinidadian English||COMING SOON|
|Ugandan English||COMING SOON|
|Welsh English||model | key||COMING SOON|
|West African English||includes Nigerian English and Ghanaian English||model | key||COMING SOON|
|Words of Chinese origin||COMING SOON|
|Words of Japanese origin||VIEW RESOURCES|
|Words of Korean origin||VIEW RESOURCES|
World Englishes in focus
Our March 2022 update contained words from Irish English. View the updates below:
OED editors are currently revising and expanding the OED‘s coverage of African American English, Australian English, New Zealand English, and East African English.
Our pronunciation team are also developing a model for the transcription of Indian English, which we plan to publish in 2022.
Use the submissions form below to suggest a World English term for inclusion in the OED:
If you would like to explore the varieties of English included in the OED further but do not have personal or institutional access to the OED, get in touch to request a temporary access code.
Visit the OED blog or watch the video below for insights into our work drafting dictionary entries for the many varieties of English spoken all around the world, and how social media is helping our editors to access and document shifts in language that would once have largely been out of reach.
The OED works in partnership with external experts from or in the appropriate regions to ensure that our entries for World Englishes draw from local knowledge and expertise and reflect the everyday realities and distinctive identities of different English-speaking communities.
Yet there is a group of people who do not view code-switching in such a negative light, and these people are linguists. Indeed, it is a linguist whom the OED records as having written the earliest known use of the term code-switching in print—Lucy Shepard Freeland, who used it in her 1951 monograph on the language of the Sierra Miwok people of California. Linguists needed to have a name for this linguistic phenomenon that can reveal so much about the inner workings of human language and cognition.
We have produced a teaching activity pack with three lessons which teachers can use to introduce World Englishes in the English language classroom with the help of the OED. This freely downloadable resource was developed by the OED in collaboration with ELT specialist and teacher trainer Ms Sophia Khan of the British Council in Singapore and linguist and lecturer Dr Hyejeong Ahn of Nanyang Technological University:
For additional teaching resources, please visit our teaching resources page.
- Salazar, D. 2021. Documenting World Englishes in the Oxford English Dictionary: Past perspectives, present developments, and future directions. In Research Developments in World Englishes. Onysko, A., ed. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 271-294.
- Ahn, H. J., Salazar, D., Khan, S. 2021. Enhancing teachers’ awareness of Global Englishes using the Oxford English Dictionary. In Language Teacher Education for Global Englishes: A Practical Resource Book. Selvi, A.F., Yazan, B. eds. Oxford: Routledge, pp. 100-107.
- Salazar, D., Deang, R. K. 2021. En santé publique, il est important d’utiliser les mots justes. Coronavirus: une conversation mondiale. France Culture.
- Salazar, D. 2018. From datus to trapos: Reading Philippine history in the OED. New Mandala.
- Salazar, D. 2017. Philippine English in the Oxford English Dictionary: Recent advancements and implications for ESL in the Philippines. Philippine ESL Journal, 19, pp. 45-59.
- Muñoz Basols, J., Salazar, D. 2016. Cross-linguistic lexical influence between English and Spanish. Spanish in Context, 13(1), pp. 80-102.
- Salazar, D. 2015. The vocabulary of non-dominant varieties of English in the Oxford English Dictionary. In Pluricentric languages: New perspectives in theory and description. Muhr, R., Marley, D., eds. Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 73-88.
- Salazar, D. 2014. Towards improved coverage of Southeast Asian Englishes in the Oxford English Dictionary. Lexicography: Journal of Asialex, 1, pp. 95-108.
- Price, J. 2003. The recording of vocabulary from the major varieties of English in the Oxford English Dictionary. In The politics of English as a world language: new horizons in postcolonial cultural studies. Mair, C. ed. Amsterdam: Rodopi, pp. 119-137.
- Weiner, E. 1987. The New OED and World English. English Today, 3(3), pp. 31-34. (Reprinted from English World-Wide, 7, pp. 259-266).
The opinions and other information hereby presented do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of Oxford University Press.
Learn more about why the OED documents World Englishes
- The importance of documenting minoritized varieties of English: excerpt featuring Dr Kingsley Ugwuanyi
- The importance of documenting minoritized varieties of English: excerpt featuring Dr Rosemary Hall
- The importance of documenting minoritized varieties of English: excerpt featuring Kelly Elizabeth Wright
- Do we need language standards? Excerpt featuring Dr Rosemary Hall
- Do we need language standards? Excerpt featuring Kelly Elizabeth Wright
- Do we need language standards? Excerpt featuring Dr Kingsley Ugwuanyi
- Fighting language prejudice towards minoritized varieties of English: excerpt featuring Dr Jeannette Allsopp
- Fighting language prejudice towards minoritized varieties of English: excerpt featuring Dr Kingsley Ugwuanyi
- Fighting language prejudice towards minoritized varieties of English: excerpt featuring Kelly Elizabeth Wright
- Dialect parody: what is it, and how does it affect the language is perceived? Excerpt featuring Dr Rosemary Hall
- What is code switching? How is it perceived, and documented? Excerpt featuring Dr Danica Salazar
- How can language documentation contribute to reduce language discrimination? Excerpt featuring Dr Catherine Sangster
- Addressing regional variations in the OED’s pronunciation models: excerpt featuring Dr Catherine Sangster
Information about any upcoming events and webinars, as well as recording from past events, will be posted on our webinar and events page. Recent events related to World Englishes are available to view below.
Language prejudice and the documentation of minoritized varieties of English
Many still consider some varieties of English to be inferior to others. Such language prejudice has a clear social and economic impact on certain language communities, whose members are frequently marginalized because of their accents or their choice of words.
To mark the launch of the OED’s Varieties of English page, Dr Danica Salazar, World English Editor, and Dr Catherine Sangster, OED Executive Editor, were joined by a panel of guest speakers to discuss:
- Attitudes towards language variation
- Why are particular varieties valued over others?
- How does the perception of a language variety impact communication?
- Why is it important to document minoritized varieties of English?
- Code switching
- Dialect parody
Our guest panel was composed by:
- Dr Jeannette Allsopp, retired Senior Research Fellow in Lexicography and founder and former Director of the Richard and Jeannette Allsopp Centre for Caribbean Lexicography at the University of the West Indies
- Dr Rosemary Hall, Research Assistant, The Dialect and Heritage Project, University of Leeds
- Dr Kingsley Ugwuanyi, English Lecturer and Researcher, University of Nigeria
- Kelly Elizabeth Wright, PhD Candidate in Experimental Sociolinguistics, University of Michigan
The questions which could not be addressed during the webinar session were addressed by the panelists and their answers are available to view here.
Mama put in the OED: World Englishes and the Oxford English Dictionary
Dr Danica Salazar, OED World English Editor, and Mr Kingsley Ugwuanyi, one of OUP’s valued Nigerian English consultants, discussed how different varieties of World English are being included in the OED, the processes around this, and how researchers can get involved.
Watch the webinar below, and read the accompanying blog piece by Dr Danica Salazar on the OED blog: Circuit breakers, PPEs, and Veronica buckets: World Englishes and Covid-19.
Major health crises and the OED: language evolution and challenges in health communication
Language has had to adapt rapidly and repeatedly this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic – but what are the challenges faced when new medical terminology needs to be used within many varieties of English, and also with non-English speakers?
Join Dr Danica Salazar, OED World English Editor, and Richard Karl Deang, PhD candidate at the University of Virginia, for an interactive online presentation that will combine insights from medical anthropology and lexicography to address the following questions:
- New terms in current use in different parts of the world, and what social realities these words reveal
- Lessons learnt from other global health crises, and how can we use these to ensure more effective health communication?
- What considerations need to be made in crafting accurate and locally appropriate translations of Covid-19 terminology from English?
Watch the recording of this presentation here:
The questions that we were not able to address during the live presentation were passed on to the panellists and their answers are available to view here.
Covid-19 Multilingual Project
Oxford Languages, of which the OED is part, recognizes the importance of establishing a standard vocabulary around Covid-19 so that information can be communicated with clarity and precision. Oxford Languages are making these translations freely available in order to support local efforts to provide critical health advice to various communities around the world. The translations may also be of interest to those wishing to study how different languages are evolving as a result of the pandemic.
The Ontario Dialects Project
The way people may talk in small Ontario communities would slip through the cracks unless documented in a project like the ODP. The project offers the OED unique insight into the language of one of the world’s largest English-speaking nations.
The Ontario Dialects Project (ODP) has been documenting the dialects of Ontario, Canada, since 2002. The ODP’s research has identified many words of characteristic Canadian usage, such as May two-four and soaker, which have now been included in the OED.
The Richard and Jeannette Allsopp Centre for Caribbean Lexicography
[Caribbean English] is an extremely important variety… [The OED] helps to export it across the world and show that it has value and is a viable form of English and a colourful variety of English.
The Richard and Jeannette Allsopp Centre for Caribbean Lexicography is a research centre dedicated to producing and promoting dictionaries of Caribbean languages. Its honoured ancestor, Prof Richard Allsopp, the late Chief Editor of the Dictionary of Caribbean English Usage, was a consultant of long standing for the OED. The Centre’s founder, Dr Jeannette Allsopp, continues to be the OED‘s consultant on Caribbean English. She has worked closely with OED editors on a recent project to revise and expand the dictionary’s coverage of words used by English speakers in the Caribbean, such as tabanca and like peas.
- Irish Times article, Royal Irish Vocabulary – Frank McNally on the OED’s latest update, which includes bockety, bean an tí and Old Segotia
- BBC News article, Why 26 Korean words have been added to Oxford English Dictionary
- CBC (Canada), interview with Dr Jieun Kiaer, Oxford English Dictionary adds 26 Korean words to ‘enrich the English language‘
- The Guardian article, K-beauty, hallyu and mukbang: dozens of Korean words added to Oxford English Dictionary
- Segye Ilbo (South Korea), interview with Dr Danica Salazar (in Korean)
- YTN Radio (South Korea), interview with Prof Jiyoung Shin (in Korean)
- Caribbean Intelligence, interview with Dr Jeannette Allsopp, We ting and the Oxford English Dictionary
- Business Mirror (Philippines), Educators speak: Oxford editor looks into ‘Philippine English’
- The Royal Gazette (Bermuda), interview with Dr Rosemary Hall, Onion – and other Bermudian words – go to Oxford!